Alexandria has a very complex and impressive history beginning with its founding by Alexander the Great in around 331 BC (hence its name Alexandria). For several centuries, It was one of the great cities in the ancient world – second only to Rome. During the Hellenistic period, the city was home to several treasures of the ancient world including the Library of Alexandria, the home to ancient scripts and knowledge and the Pharos (Lighthouse of Alexandria), one of the official Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, both of these wonders are now gone, having succumbed over the millennia to fires, earthquakes, wars and reconstruction. This was also the case for all of Alexandria’s monuments – many of which are no longer visible, yet its history remains.
Together, their history just highlights Alexandria’s importance and to the role it played in ancient, Hellenistic civilisation. Interestingly, Alexandria was the setting for the stormy love story between Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Marc Antony.
Many people visit Alexandria as a cruise stop or as a day trip from Cairo. As we were staying in Cairo for a few days and had some family friends living in Alexandria, we wanted to go and pay them a visit – and they very kindly took us on a quick tour around the city. There is a great inexpensive train service from Cairo and Alexandria which takes around 2.5 to 3 hours.
Even though the city lost some of its grandeur of the past, with a bit of searching, you can still find bits of Alexandria’s glorious past. Saying this, I do recommend a balanced approach during your visit. Even though you can still enjoy the surviving sights, what I really enjoyed doing and what made this city memorable was its laid back and welcoming atmosphere. By this I mean – walk the city streets, enjoy a gentle stroll along the seaside promenade and explore its markets.
The first place our family friends took us to was to the Corniche, the waterfront promenade which stretches for 10 miles between Montana Plaza and Citadel of Qaitbay. I just loved stretching my legs after the train journey and taking in the sea air. We did as the locals and found a spot to sit down, enjoyed the serenity and did some people watching.
Citadel of Qaitbay
The Citadel of Qaitbay was built where the famous Lighthouse once stood in 1480 AD by the Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Qaitbay. It was one of the most important defensive strongholds for Egypt along the Mediterranean Sea. It was upkept by the subsequent rulers due to it strategic location and importance against Ottoman attacks. However, it was seriously damaged by the British during the Urabi Revolt in 1882. The fortress wasn’t used or renovated until King Farouk turned it into a royal palace in 1904. After the Egyptian revolution in 1952, the palace was restored and turned into a maritime museum, where it remains today to explore.
Eat the Local Seafood
Alexandria is best known for its seafood. We went to the Balbaa Grill and Fish Village and guys – I cant recommend this place enough. It was just so delicious! Its located in the Sidi Bishr neighbourhood and can seat up to 300 people. Its surrounded by locals but because the restaurant is so popular, they also operate several other restaurants in the city. Be sure to visit the original one!
Balbaa serves delicious grilled fish, pigeon and liver.
This is the most popular palace in the city – the large Al-Haramlik Palace (aka Al Montaza Palace). This was built by Kind Faud I in 1932 as a royal summer palace. It was also used as a residence for Egyptian presidents post 1952 revolution. The gardens are open to the public for a fee although the palace itself is not.
The Pompey’s Pillar is an architectural wonder, located amidst the ruins of the Serapeum in Alexandria. Its another very popular tourist attraction in the city. It is the largest Roman triumphal column constructed outside Rome or Constantinople. The full column stands over 26m tall.
So there is the list of things to do in Alexandria Egypt!
Do you have any questions about travelling to Alexandria that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂
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